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Benson, William

Benson, William (1682–1754). English architect. He designed Wilbury House, Wilts. (1710), the first example of the Revival of the style of Inigo Jones's domestic architecture in C18 England, derived in this case from John Webb's Amesbury House, Wilts. (1661). Wilbury was illustrated in volume 1 of Vitruvius Britannicus (1715—plates 51–2). Interested in hydraulics, Benson provided a system of piped water-supply for Shaftesbury, Dorset (1715), and designed water-works for the gardens of Herrenhausen, near Hanover, for King George I (1714–27). He curried such favour that he was appointed to the Surveyorship of the Works in 1718, having had the octogenarian Wren dismissed. In the fifteen months he held the post he managed to remove any subordinate with talent, although he appointed Colen Campbell as his Deputy. Benson and Campbell seem to have planned to have the Houses of Parliament demolished (by claiming the House of Lords was structurally unsound) in order to further their plans to design a huge new Palladian building, but their views were challenged and they were dismissed in 1719, but not before new State Rooms at Kensington Palace (1718–20) were commenced, probably to Campbell's designs. Hawksmoor claimed that Benson got more in one year for ‘confusing the King's Works’ than Wren obtained in forty years of ‘honest endeavours’. Benson seems to have been involved in the building of Campbell's Stourhead, Wilts., and contributed to the building of the new chancel of the Parish Church at Quarley, Hants. (1723).

Bibliography

Colvin (1995);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)

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